Dealing with cancer is terrible. Patients have to go through a very hard time and some of the side effects of chemotherapy are often dismissed. But for a great number of cancer survivors, there will be a life after cancer and that’s a pretty important thing to remember. And, obviously, you want a very full and happy life!
This means it’s important to speak with your care team about decreasing and managing side effects caused by your treatment. You’ll be able to enjoy life after cancer more completely, for instance, if you talk about potential balance and hearing issues that could arise post chemotherapy, with your care team.
Available cancer treatments
Cancer treatment has progressed substantially in the past couple of decades. The development of certain cancers can even be avoided with vaccines. But, generally speaking, there are still three standard ways that doctors will fight this serious disease: surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
There are distinctive drawbacks and strengths to each of these, and in some cases, they’re used together. The best treatment course will be determined by your diagnosis, your prognosis, and your care team.
Do all cancer treatments cause hearing and balance problems? Well, each patient is different, but generally, these side effects are restricted to chemotherapy.
What is chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy is a mixture of treatments that use strong chemicals to kill cancer cells. Because of its extremely successful track record, chemotherapy is frequently the main treatment choice for a wide variety of cancers. But because these chemicals are so strong, chemotherapy can create some unpleasant side effects. Those side effects can include:
- Hair loss
- Mouth sores
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Loss of hearing
Side effects of chemotherapy tend to vary from person to person. The particular combination of chemicals also has a considerable impact on the specific side effects. Most people are fairly well aware of some of these symptoms, like hair loss for example. But not so many individuals are aware of chemotherapy induced hearing loss.
Can hearing loss be brought about by chemotherapy?
Loss of hearing isn’t one of the better known side effects of chemotherapy. But hearing loss can be an actual side effect of chemotherapy. Is hearing loss from chemo permanent? The answer is often yes.
So, what type of chemotherapy often comes with long-term hearing loss? Platinum-based chemical protocols (also called cisplatin-based chemotherapy) are more commonly responsible for hearing loss side effects. This type of therapy can be used on numerous forms of cancers but is most often used to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers.
Scientists think that platinum-based chemotherapy chemicals attack and damage the little delicate stereocilia in the ears, but the exact cause-and-effect relationship is still unclear. Over time, this can cause hearing loss, and that hearing loss tends to be permanent.
Even if you’re battling cancer, you still need to pay attention to hearing loss
When you’re battling cancer, hearing loss might not feel like your most pressing concern. But there are considerable reasons why your hearing health is important, even in the midst of battling cancer:
- Hearing loss has been known to result in social isolation. This can aggravate many different conditions. If you’re feeling isolated socially, it can become challenging to do everyday activities, especially getting appropriate treatment.
- Chemotherapy-caused hearing loss can also result in balance issues and tinnitus. So can tinnitus also be caused by chemotherapy? Regrettably, yes. Tinnitus is often connected with balance problems which can also be an issue. You don’t want to fall down when you’re recovering from your chemotherapy treatment!
- Hearing loss, particularly neglected hearing loss, can negatively affect your mental health. Untreated hearing loss is closely associated with increases in depression and anxiety. Battling cancer can, similarly, increase anxiety and depression, so you don’t want to make matters worse.
You’ll want to speak with your care team about minimizing other health issues while you’re fighting cancer.
What’s the solution?
When you’re battling cancer, your life becomes a laundry list of doctor’s appointments. But don’t let that stop you from setting up an appointment for a hearing exam.
Here are a number of things that seeing a hearing specialist will help with:
- Establish a baseline for your hearing. This will make it significantly easier to detect hearing loss in the future.
- Establish a relationship with a hearing specialist. If you experience hearing loss, your hearing specialist will have a more comprehensive understanding of your needs, your health history, and what your hearing treatment can look like.
- If you do notice hearing loss, it will be easier to obtain fast treatment.
So if you get hearing loss from chemo, can it be reversed? No matter the cause, sensorineural hearing loss has no cure, regrettably. But there are treatment solutions. Your hearing specialist will be able to help you treat and manage your hearing loss. This could mean basic monitoring or it might include a set of hearing aids.
It’s mostly frequencies in the higher register that go when your hearing loss is triggered by chemo. Your day-to-day hearing may not even really be effected.
Caring for your hearing is important
Paying attention to your hearing is essential. If you’re worried about how chemotherapy might impact your hearing, talk to your care team. Your treatment may not be able to be altered but at least you’ll be better able to track your symptoms and to get more rapid treatment.
Hearing loss can be induced by chemotherapy. But if you consult your hearing specialist, they will help you develop a plan that will help you get in front of the symptoms.